Junior Sons ready for return to Timmins
by Randy Pascal
The Nickel City Major Bantam “AA” Jr Sons are hopeful that returning to the “scene of the crime”, so to speak, might prove just the recipe for
success at the OHF (Ontario Hockey Federation) Championships this coming weekend.
One of only two teams to qualify for the provincial showdowns – the Sudbury Major Midget “AA” Wolves are the other – the Jr Sons left yesterday
for Timmins, the very same area where they captured the NOHA Tournament of Champions crown, almost exactly a month ago to the day.
“We’re hoping that maybe we can catch some teams from down south off guard, with them not being used to travelling this much,” said head coach Jason
Marmen after his team’s final practice of the year, earlier this week.
“Realistic for us is to get to the semi-finals,” Marmen added. “For me, it would be a disappointment not to get to the semi-finals.” In addition to the
host Timmins North Stars, the Nickel City crew will be joined by the Garden City Falcons, Humber Valley Sharks and London Jr Knights,
contesting a full round robin, with the final four moving on to Sunday morning encounters.
The Jr Sons captured the Northern Ontario banner with a hard fought 2-1 win over Sault Major Sports Gold, knocking off the North Stars 5-2 in
semi-final play earlier that day. While the past month has seen the Jr Sons squeeze in a tough five game Nickel District championship series with the
Sudbury Major Bantam “AA” Wolves, the schedule has been light enough to allow for a little optimism heading back to Timmins.
“Now that we have all the team together, after a few injuries and what-not, I have high expectations for the team,” said Marmen. “Some of the teams that
we’ve met before, we’ve either lost by just a goal or tied them, so I think we have a good shot to go for it this year.”
“We’re going to need some good goaltending, there’s no question,” he continued. “And we’re going to have to stay positive. We’re a team that when we get
negative, things go down for us. If we can keep positive, we can have some good results.”
Shouldering at least some of the burden for keeping his team upbeat, captain Graeme Siren was thankful for the competition that was posed in the
local final by the Bantam “AA” Wolves, a crew that he and his teammates know all too well.
“It got our legs moving, for sure,” said Siren. “Sudbury is a fast team, so stamina-wise, we’ll be ready to go.” Completing just his second year with
the Jr Sons after toiling with SMHA “AAA” teams through his peewee years, the smooth-skating defenceman believes that the improvement within the Nickel
City squad bodes well with this upcoming challenge.
“I think we’re a lot faster, a lot smarter with the puck, and a bigger team as well,” said Siren. “We need to play our game: physical, fast and smart.”
As for the captaincy, the local product turns to what he has traditionally done well.
“I like to lead by example,” stated Siren. “Work hard every shift, every practice, and hope that the hard work rubs off on the other boys.” While Siren
is a relative newcomer to this team, with a pair of seasons under his belt, Mathieu Poliquin is one of a nice solid handful of teenagers who go back
four years or more as teammates with the Sons.
And though every player will bring his own unique skill set to the mix, contributing to the success that the Nickel City lads have enjoyed this year,
they all also share a similar mandate, in the eyes of Poliquin.
“Everybody has the same role, if you think about it, to go out there and do your best. We had a rough stretch during the middle of the season, but it
was a good wake-up call.” Like Siren, the veteran forward with the Jr Sons appreciated the recent competition that Sudbury provided, though he admitted the
test that was the NDMHL final, following directly in the footsteps of the tournament that secured their spot in the all-Ontario playdowns.
“I think it was hard, but we came to the games to win,” said Poliquin. “I don’t think we were quite as pumped. I think we wanted to win, but did not
come out with as much intensity as we needed to.” The Wolves would eventually take the six point series, 6-4, though the Jr Sons will gladly take the
trade-off of still competing in early April.
That said, they know that even returning with a medal is no easy chore. “We’re going to have to come out stronger than every other team, come out with a
lot of intensity,” said Poliquin. “We have to make sure to do the right plays. Everything has to be bang on for us to succeed.”
Joining Siren and Poliquin on the Jr Sons roster this year were goaltenders Joel Coulombe and Drew Patrick, as well as skaters Eamon
Dolphin, Caleb Poulin-Hawes, Daniel Perrault, Tyler Bell, Lucas Howland, Samuel Saumure, Jadon Marmen, Cole Molyneaux, André Piette, Blake Cornthwaite,
Ayden Popowich, Caleb Rainville, call-up Cameron Walker, assistant coach André Piette, trainer Tyler Popowich and manager
As for the Sudbury Major Midget “AA” Wolves, they will be joined in London by the Mississauga Jets, London Jr Knights, London Jr Mustangs and
Caledon Hawks, also looking to secure a top four placing such as to still be playing come Sunday morning.
The remaining local NOHA champions who do not contest an OHF championship included:
Nickel City Novice “AA” Jr Sons
Nickel City Minor Bantam “A-AA” Jr Sons
Nickel City Minor Bantam “AAA” Sons